Korean phone maker Pantech aims to differentiate from Apple

Pantech, Korea’s third largest smartphone maker, aims to distinguish itself from competitors by adopting strong color tones in its new user experience (UX), FLUX 3.0, and believes this will fuel future growth.

Explaining Pantech's view of what makes a smartphone special, Cho Jeong-woo, Pantech's UX team head says: “Most competitors follow Apple’s iOS 7 in using subtle color tones for their UX. But we are different. Using bold and strong hues is now Pantech’s trademark."

Cho Jeong-woo, head of Pantech's UX team, gives ZDNet Korea the lowdown on FLUX 3.0

In an interview with ZDNet Korea at Pantech's Seoul, South Korea headquarters, Cho stressed that FLUX 3.0, available for the first time with Pantech's latest flagship phone, Vega Iron 2, will propel growth and make Pantech unique among rivals.

Local market reaction to FLUX 3.0's strong color tones has been greatly divided, though all commend Pantech's attempt to boldly differentiate itself from other unoriginal UXs.

Pastel colors are rare in FLUX 3.0, the difference to iOS 7's subdued color tones being immediately apparent. Cho says that is exactly what the company wants: that consumers, when seeing the product, recognize it instantly as a Pantech.

"Innovative designs are disappearing fast in smartphones to the point where even those in the industry can't tell which device is which by just a passing glimpse," said the Pantech executive. "UX is now effectively the only point of differentiation. So the first goal of FLUX 3.0 was to make people know by the UX that it was made by us," he said.

Another favorable attribute is that the Vega Iron 2, unlike its predecessors, uses active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display, known for its strong colors. Market watchers say this fits well with FLUX 3.0.

However, there are concerns in the market that consumers more used to subdued color tones may find the new UX unattractive. But Cho says Pantech is prepared. "The truth is, we can't satisfy everyone. Some may look at our UX and think it too… gaudy. But we have a conviction that it will satisfy those in their 20s and 30s who are outgoing and want personality in their devices," he said.

Cho's UX team conducted a survey in January and February last year, as they were kicking off the development of FLUX 3.0, to ask consumers what kind of UX they wanted. FLUX 3.0 was developed based on research results that found the younger generation wanted a distinctive character in their devices and UXs.

FLUX 3.0 has strong color tones unlike rivals' UXs

The strong color tone doesn't mean the team forgot the basics of producing the best UX. Much like iOS 7, Cho says, they put simplicity and immediacy of use above all else. "Much like other IT areas, the most difficult thing to achieve in a UX is to make it as simple to use as possible. It must, while being simple, execute complex functions. That is why we at Pantech put the iOS 7 in high esteem."

Pantech has already begun planning its next UX, likely to be commercialized during the second half of 2015. There are many opinions that they should use even bolder color tones for the next version, says Cho. Another crucial task is to add capabilities that support the ever-increasing functions of a smartphone, such as healthcare.

"We must now develop UXs with the increasing… functions on smartphones in mind. Personally, I believe the rising adaption of motion sensors on devices will divide the winners and losers in UX. I think we should start thinking [about] making UX compatible with new smartphones that will allow users to move letters and lines on the screen without touching them.”

While Pantech has limited resources compared to local rivals Samsung or LG, it aims to be the most innovative with its UX. As hardware design and specification become less of a factor in choosing smartphones, that approach could pay off. Korea, and possibly the world, waits for Pantech's next-big-thing with anticipation. 

Source: ZDNet Korea (zdnet.co.kr)